Melanoma Surgery

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. While melanoma, a type of skin cancer, accounts for just two percent of skin cancer diagnoses, it is by far the most serious and causes a majority of skin cancer deaths. Symptoms include changes in the skin, such as a mole that changes size, shape, or color; or other spots, discolorations, blemishes, or unusual changes in texture. You should examine your skin regularly for any changes, using the “ABCDE” guideline:

A. Asymmetry. If one side of a mole doesn’t match the other.

B. Border. A mole or other discoloration with irregular edges.

C. Color. Inconsistent color with patches of brown or black that may be missed with pink, red, or white.

D. Diameter. Spots larger than the size of a pencil eraser may be cause for concern.

E. Evolving. Know your skin and be familiar with any changes in coloration or in the size or shape of a mole.

Melanomas are removed by excision, in which the tumor and a small amount of non-affected skin surrounding it, called the margin, are removed. The size of the margin will vary depending on the size and location of the tumor. Today’s precision techniques minimize the margin, preserving more healthy tissue and reducing the potential for scarring. Excision of shallow melanomas can often be done in-office under local anesthesia or in an outpatient facility. Larger melanomas may require more extensive surgery to produce a more desirable cosmetic outcome and sometimes to check lymph nodes. For larger tumors, the excised area may be grafted with skin taken from another area of the body or closed with a “flap” of local tissue.

For optimum healing, it’s important to follow the instructions you will be given regarding caring for the excised area. You may be instructed to temporarily limit certain types of movement that may put stress on the affected area. You may also be given topical medication to apply to prevent infection and promote healing.

For more information visit The American Cancer Society.